Len Bellinger

Painting Notes 1993 – 2018

May 11th, 2018 — June 3rd, 2018
Opening Reception: Friday, May 11th, 6PM – 9PM


Len Bellinger "pox populi" (1994-95, oil, staples, formica, canvas on canvas, 71.5” x 48”)

Len Bellinger “pox populi” (1994-95, oil, staples, formica, canvas on canvas, 71.5” x 48”)




DAVID&SCHWEITZER Contemporary proudly presents Painting Notes 1993–2018, a one-person exhibition of works by Len Bellinger.


I can’t believe it’s been almost five years since I’ve added to my painting practice to also become a curator and gallerist.

One of my most cherished experiences in those 5 years is the strange and wonderful case of my studio visit with Len Bellinger.

I first encountered Len and his amazing wife Denise Sfraga, an artist herself, when we opened Life On Mars. I came to know Len as a voracious collector and supporter of artists.  Denise also generously photographed and shared on social media almost every opening in the Bushwick scene. They bought work from almost every artist in Bushwick they could afford and asked for nothing in return. I would often refer to them as the “Vogels.” For those too young to get the reference, Herb and Dorothy Vogel were a seemingly ordinary couple who filled their humble one-bedroom New York apartment with more than 4,000 works of art over a 45-year period.  

Despite their modest income, the Vogels began acquiring work that was undiscovered or unappreciated in the early 1960s, primarily minimalist and conceptual art by such visionaries as Robert and Sylvia Mangold, Donald Judd, Richard Tuttle, Sol LeWitt, Christo, Lynda Benglis and many others. 

By the early 1990s, the Vogels’ collection filled every corner of their living space, from the bathroom to the kitchen, floor to ceiling.

If you’re ever invited to Denise and Len’s home, you’ll see the Vogels’ collection ten times over.

After Denise and Len bought about their tenth Todd Bienvenu work, I thought I would ask if I could see their collection. I also asked Len, “what do you do?” He told me he was a painter. Never once over the first two years did he ask me for a studio visit or try to leverage buying work from me to come see his work.

So I went to his studio. When I arrived in Queens, Len was outside dressed in his usual all black to show me the way in.

To get into his studio, one has to step down into what could best be described lovingly as a Hobbit Hole. His 300 sq ft space is filled from floor to ceiling with over four decades of unseen, uncompromising, bad-ass, intelligent and passionate work.

Len spent close to 11 years living in that space. They’ve endured winters with no heat. All they needed was painting and each other.

We started going through the work and I could not believe what I was seeing. He had been in that studio since 1979, and there was decades of amazing work that Len had created and decided not to show. He didn’t show because all he wanted to do was work and didn’t want to waste his time with the art business.

Amazingly, he chose not to show despite having lots of early success with a studio at PS-1 from 1977 thru 1979, representation and exhibitions with Kathryn Markel from 1983 to 1985 and a great review in The New York Times by Grace Glueck.

Over the next forty years, Len taught high school. He was a one-person art department and a beloved teacher.  He’d drive a cab during the summer in the early years and then go to the studio every day and paint, paint, paint. Despite the demands of his schedule, he always found the time to look at, admire, and champion the work of his contemporaries. Len Bellinger is the ultimate Outsider/Insider artist: part Thornton Dial, part Goya, part Schnabel, part Bill Nye the Science Guy. But in the end, he’s entirely original.

And yet, these stories would mean nothing if the work wasn’t as astounding as it is. He had a show in the Project Room at DSC alongside one of the world’s most powerful painters in the main room, Brenda Goodman. Len’s work was incredibly well-received and held its own with Brenda’s. In fact, the two bodies of work created a rich, powerful dialogue when side-by-side.

Why do I and so many others find Bellinger’s work so powerful? Well, it’s the intelligence, the love of art history, science and his relentless curiosity that results in the amazingly complex and rich surfaces with imagery all his own. There’s an extreme, almost obscenely perverse  beautiful materiality that is the evidence and guts of his practice. It’s the residue of a total uncompromising commitment to find truths through the transformative act of painting.

Len came up with the name for this exhibition, Painting Notes 1993 – 2018. Over the years Len has filled notebooks with studies and notations about his work. Len envisioned this exhibition as almost a musical notation of the experience of the studio: where one could perform and inhabit the experience of his studio over the last thirty-five years, from the earliest piece in the exhibition, Plague, started in 1986 and finished in 1993, to the most recent piece Thug, 2015 – 2018.

There is no game in these works. Some paintings he works over and over for decades, such as Horizontal Hold, 1993 – 2018. He obsessively reworks the surfaces until they set for him in a way that feels specific and resolved. Len uses everything and the kitchen sink: staples, wood, metal, collage, paint and God knows what else. It lets the viewer join in on this transformative glorious mess, without knowing exactly how he or she arrived there.

I believe that the greater the degree the painter is transformed by their practice and process, the greater the painting and more expansive a record of that transformation is left for the viewer to inhabit. While the viewer may not understand what the painter exactly meant, or what the experience of the painter was, they can feel the rhythm, the micro adjustments, and the commitment of the painter. They thereby become part of something bigger than themselves, making sense of what is felt but cannot be fully understood, actualizing a secular spirituality,

making real what we can feel and know in our hearts but never fully understand.

It is my honor to share the transformative experience I first had going into Len’s studio with you.  At long last, you can see the decades of powerful work that now feels more timely and fresh than ever.

Michael David Painter Curator Artistic Director
May 1, 2018


Len Bellinger "guardian" (1993-95, oil, wax, acrylic, medals, glue on cardboard, 11" x 9.5" x 3.75”)

Len Bellinger “guardian” (1993-95, oil, wax, acrylic, medals, glue on cardboard, 11″ x 9.5″ x 3.75”)



Karen Schwartz
The Human Stain

May 11th, 2018 — June 3rd, 2018
Opening Reception: Friday, May 11th, 6PM – 9PM


Karen Schwartz "Goats Gossiping" (2018, mixed media on yupo, 14"x11")

Karen Schwartz “Goats Gossiping” (2018, mixed media on yupo, 14″x11″)




DAVID&SCHWEITZER Contemporary is proud to present a one-person exhibition of works by Karen Schwartz in our Project Space. 

This exhibition, The Human Stain (quoting the title from the Philip Roth novel), is comprised of a series of works on paper and unstretched canvas by Karen Schwartz. This much anticipated second one-person exhibition in New York follows her critically acclaimed 2015 debut exhibition, Down the Rabbit Hole, at Life on Mars Gallery.

In these works, built on an intentional, immediate mark making, akin to Basquiat, Beuys and Twombly, Schwartz continues an exploration of the relationship between both her painting process and the practice of psychoanalytic psychotherapy, as she makes unformulated, subjective experience material and realized through painting.

In these elegantly spare and severe paintings, Schwartz attenuates the difference between the conscious and unconscious, the figurative and the abstract, pushing the boundaries between these tropes.  In this gem of an exhibition, she revisits themes consistent in her work over the last decade, creating a beauty – severe, playful, disturbing and elegant all at once – that reflects the dislocation of self that many feel at this moment in our culture and country.